Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

July 28, 2019


A useful life requires worthy goals


Sad and disillusioned, a man said to me, “Pastor, at age 40 I have reached my goals in life but along the way, I lost my family. My wife left me and took the kids with her.” Consoling him was difficult. Knowing that it would not help to “preach at him,” I did my best to encourage him to believe, with God’s help, he could have a future.

Goals are necessary for a life of meaning and joy but, but they need to be the right goals. Young adults yearn to be successful. They want what they want and they want it now. So, at the expense of “being there” for his wife and children, some men will work 60 hours a week. Why? “To provide for my family.” Such a goal “sounds good” but it is not a “worthy” goal.

Some pastors make this mistake. While doing it all “in the name of Jesus,” they devote too great a proportion of their time and energy to “church work,” ignoring the needs of their family. I listened to a man cry himself to sleep one night in a men's dorm while we were on a retreat together. When I asked what was wrong, he replied, sobbing, "I have been so busy serving God that I forgot to get to know my daughter. Now she is 16, rebellious, and in serious trouble." I remember trembling inside as I wondered if I was making the same mistake while our four boys were growing up. That night, before I went to sleep, I upgraded my life goals.

Is there a way to set goals that in the process of reaching them we can live a joyful, fulfilling life? I believe there is, so think with me about goal-setting for a spell.  

Setting worthy goals is necessary for life to be fulfilling, joyful and useful. We need goals for every area of our lives: personal, family and vocational. Without goals we are apt to drift through life aimlessly. Without goals we will wallow in mediocrity while wasting the gifts God has given us. When we fail to establish clear goals for ourselves, we empower other people and circumstances to shape our lives, thus living "by default," merely reacting to the scripts other people give us. That is no way to live! 

Setting goals is not a new idea. The heroes of the Bible all set goals and worked to reach them. Noah's goal was building the ark so his family could be saved from the flood. We are here today because Noah reached his goal! Abraham's goal was to go where God directed so that the great family of God could begin. Moses' goal was to deliver God's people from bondage in Egypt and lead them to the Promised Land. David's goal was to guide Israel to victory over their enemies. Elijah's goal was to overcome Baal worship by convincing the people that Yahweh was the true God. And Jesus invited his disciples to set one primary goal: to seek first the Kingdom of God. In goal setting, history affords us some excellent examples.

Setting goals allows us to plan each day according to our own priorities. When we fail to set goals and plan well, we permit others to determine our priorities. There is great value in making a to-do list for the next day. Then, with high energy, you can tackle your top priority when you are rested and at your best. Elton Trueblood told me the story of a man who gave this idea to the president of US Steel: Before you go home each day, make a list of the things you want to do tomorrow, put it in your desk drawer, then go home and enjoy your family. The next day, pull your list out and get to work. Six months later the president sent the man a check for $25,000 for the idea. It worked for him. It has worked for me.

Setting goals should flow out of careful prioritizing. You can begin by deciding for what purpose you are living. What is you desired objective? Are you moving toward it, or just moving? Estelle Carver stirred me by imagining what questions you would ask if you were born on an airplane. Where can I find food? Where is this plane going? Who is at the controls? Who are these people seated beside me? Once you determine what you are living for, you can establish goals in three basic areas: personal, family, and vocational. Stephen Covey reminds us, in his popular Seven Habits book, that effective leaders pick priorities which stem from their basic values. That is the pattern we should follow.

Setting worthy goals is a basic principle of life. Choosing the wrong goals is self-destructive. Since we are made in the image of God, we must ask the God questions. What is God's goal for my life? What help can I expect from God? Will He in fact help me determine and reach my goals? Surely God wants us to choose goals that help us become better people, goals that benefit others as well as our own families, and goals that require the utmost integrity.

We can get confused about God's approval of our goals. In our church nationally the United Methodist Men manage a call-in prayer request center in the Upper Room in Nashville. Annually about 150,000 calls are received. Some requests are more interesting than others. One woman asked for prayer that God would provide her with a red Jeep Cherokee. Stunned, the man taking the call did as instructed -- pray with people where they are, rather than try to teach them. A year later she called and said, "I never did get that car I prayed for, but last week I got saved, and the evangelist who came to our church drove up in a red Jeep Cherokee!"

Setting goals based on your major priorities leads naturally to putting “First Things First” on a daily basis. You may remember that this is Habit #3 of Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. This involves the management of your time and projects in four categories: 1) urgent and important; 2) important but not urgent; 3) urgent but not important; and 4) not urgent and not important. One important key here is learning to say no, based on defining our roles in life and what we want to accomplish in each of those roles. Saying no is not easy, but it’s necessary if we are to have time to focus on those priorities that are important to us.

Setting goals is of little value unless we are willing to work to reach those goals. We must be willing to do what we can do without waiting on others to do certain things, and without blaming others for our failure to achieve. If we accept the axiom that we need to "work smarter, not harder," then it is smart to use all the resources available to us. Wonderful resources are all around us. Resources God has provided you are usually close at hand.

Two young boys sold a lawn mower to a pastor for enough money to buy a bike. But, the pastor could not start the mower. He asked the boys if they had sold him a lemon. One boy explained: "Mister, it won't crank unless you cuss at it." The preacher reared back in his holiest posture and said. "Son, I've been serving God for so long that I have forgotten how to cuss." The boy replied with wisdom beyond his years, "Keep pulling on that cord, preacher, and it will come back to you!"

As you continue setting worthy goals for your life, may the good Lord help you to achieve them with as little “cussing” as possible! The people with whom you live and work will be blessed by such a goal! + + +